Homespun boy names feel modern, but traditional at the same time. They’re at home in a flannel shirt, sitting on a rag rug in front of a fireplace. They’re like warm woolen mittens. You’d expect LL Bean catalog models to answer to these names.
They feel simple, but they’re far from boring. There’s a dash of indie folk rock and birdsong. These names feel capable, ready to build a fire or hike across rugged terrain. But they’re low key about it, the opposite of epic boy names, even though you can imagine any of these names finding their way home in a blizzard.
You might choose homespun boy names at any time of year, but there’s something cozy about them that makes them feel even more appealing in autumn and winter.
One of the Biblical brothers in the Book of Genesis, Abel means breath. But it sounds so much like our word able, and that makes this name feel capable and comfy, too. You’d expect an Abel to chop down a tree, build a fire, and roast something delicious – all while making it look easy.
The name of Queen Elizabeth II’s newest grandchild, Archie entered the US Top 1000 just as we learned that Meghan and Harry had given the name to their firstborn. Archibald feels dignified, even starchy; Archer reads on-trend, fleet and maybe even dangerous. But Archie makes for a cozy, cable knit sweater of a boy’s name. It’s big in England already, but seems likely to trend in the US, too.
We love a good boy name ending with o, but they don’t all have the same vibe. There’s fierce Leo, grand Horatio, dramatic Orlando. But then there’s Arlo, a name of uncertain origin and meaning, boosted by a friendly dinosaur in a Disney-Pixar flick. Arlo seems like a comfortable name, warm and unassuming. I’d expect an Arlo to be approachable, capable, and charming.
Asher straddles so many categories: it sounds like popular, preppy surnames Carter and Parker. The meaning – happy – brings it closer to virtue choices, and it certainly qualifies as a great meaning. But it also reads gentle, almost a nature name, thanks to the first syllable. Maybe that’s why Asher fits here, too, among the homepsun boy names.
Way back in the 1977, Jim Henson brought a children’s book to life with the holiday special Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas. It’s a take on O. Henry’s The Gift of the Magi. Like many things Muppets, it boasts a loyal following. And the tale of a modest, hard-working creature almost certainly explains why Emmett makes the list.
The razor-y z, the a ending … nothing sounds quite like Ezra. It’s poetic, thanks to Ezra Pound. Younger Ezras make it edgy. But there’s also author-illustrator Ezra Jack Keats of The Snowy Day fame, and that keeps this name in the homespun boy names category. There’s something refreshingly straightforward about Ezra.
Frank sounds honest and earnest, as nostalgic as a Frank Capra movie. (Among many others, Capra directed It’s a Wonderful Life.) But Franklin? That’s all Founding Father Benjamin. And if ever there were a name that exudes a sort of thoughtful, homespun sensibility, then it must be Franklin. Depression-era president FDR helps, too.
Grand Augustus and scholarly Augustine both shorten to Gus. (So does the imperial Constantine.) But reducing the name to just three letters changes everything. Cinderella’s Gus is the cuddly one. (Though he’s quite brave, too.) And while Gus could wield a scepter or delve into deep philosophical questions, I think this name sounds more at home in a woodshop or the Maine woods. Or both.
A Scottish name meaning windy place, Guthrie immediately brings to mind legendary folk singer and songwriter Woody Guthrie – that’s short for Woodrow Wilson Guthrie. His first name appears later on this list; his son’s name is nearer to the top. But even without the musician, this name feels like one of the homepsun boy names. It’s a little bit gruff and rough, but also toasty warm. It’s also one of the rarer choices on this list – just 19 boys received the name in 2018.
Harry is a regular Joe; there’s a reason JK Rowling named her main character Harry Potter, an anonymous name for an extraordinary boy, living in a world filled with names like Draco and Sirius. It’s a warm woolen sweater of name, something Mrs. Weasley would knit. It’s quite stylish in England these days, but remains stuck in style limbo in the US. However, the regal Henry – Harry’s formal version – is a white-hot classic choice.
If you doubt that Hugo belongs on this list, step back in time and listen to Ann-Margaret rhyme the name with “I will go where you go” on the Bye-Bye Birdie soundtrack. Yes, o-ending names feel modern. But Hugo boasts more history than many, dating to at least the tenth century. It leans a little bit British, but it’s also the kind of name you’d expect to hear on a wilderness guide.
It’s easy to dismiss Jesse as an 80s name, hanging with Jason and Chris. But Jesse comes straight from the Old Testament, the father of King David himself. It combines a great meaning – gift – with a modern sound. Jesse James was an outlaw, but Jesse Owens changed the world. And a generation grew up with Full House’s Uncle Jesse. It’s a fascinating, winding tale of a name, but I think it wears best in flannel and hiking boots.
Malcolm might be intellectual – think Gladwell – or rebellious – think Firefly. But mostly, I think Malcolm is a solid name for a son, the kind of name that exudes a confident, capable air – no matter what he might pursue. But the name strikes me as as slightly modest, a hard-working and handy kind of name that attaches to the kind of guy who can change a tire or a baby, chop wood or dice tomatoes. It’s definitely underused.
Maybe it’s poet Ogden Nash, and his light, but witty not-quite rhymes that makes me find this name so very approachable. Or maybe it’s the sound. Og belongs to ogres and bogs, not boys and men. And yet, Ogden sounds very much like a name. It’s the kind of mother’s maiden name that gets passed down, along with a picturesque cabin in the woods. But even if this gem isn’t found on your family tree, I think it wears well, a toned-down version of bolder Wilder, one of the least expected of the homespun boy names.
Teddy bears are cuddly, right? Orson means bear, from the French word for the animal, ors. The Normans brought it to England, it picks up the familiar -son ending, and it filtered into (very) occasional use. But the bear part alone is enough to make the name cuddly, and unlike many more familiar ursine appellations – Theodore, Arthur – Orson feels just slightly offbeat and independent, a quality that seems just right for this list.
Once a reasonably familiar choice, Otis fell out of the US Top 1000 in the 1990s and languished in obscurity for over a decade. Then a slow comeback started. Maybe some thanks goes to a generation of parents who grew up with live action movie The Adventures of Milo and Otis, or maybe it’s just the lingering appeal of Otis Redding. In any case, Otis sounds like a homespun favorite, a brother for Jesse or Guthrie, a name at home on the dock of the bay, probably with a fishing pole.
Roscoe hasn’t appeared in the US Top 1000 for decades, but I think it sounds quite rugged and outdoorsy. It even has the right meaning: it comes from the Old Norse words for a deer (specifically a roebuck) and the woods. If you’re crushed that Arlo is so popular, Roscoe might make a great substitute. As for that Dukes of Hazzard character? My guess is that this generation won’t think of him, but it’s worth remembering that the names used on the show, from Daisy to Bo to Luke, are now quite stylish.
Like Harry, Rufus has fared better in the UK than the US. There’s a Harry Potter character by the name. But I think Rufus fits with homespun boy names, too. Despite the name’s ancient roots, there’s nothing grand or flashy about Rufus. Indie rocker Rufus Wainwright helps put it on this list.
Recently returned to the US Top 1000, Wallace mixes two things. First, it’s proudly Scottish, as in William Wallace. But it sounds quiet, restrained, and literary. That last part is thanks to novelist and historian Wallace Stegner, author of many a book – fiction and non – centered on the American West. It’s probably the author’s legacy that transforms this heroic Scottish surname into one of the homespun boys.
Does it get any more homespun than Toy Story’s Sheriff Woody? He’s a straight-shooter with a sense of humor, a hero in a cowboy hat. In the movies, Woody isn’t short for anything, but I like the idea of Woodrow, which feels folksy but a little bit refined, too.
Wylie rhymes with Riley, but it’s been out of the US Top 1000 for decades. It carries a gentle meaning: willow wood. Or possibly it evolved from William or another place name. In any case, Wylie sounds friendly, approachable, and right at home with other homespun boy names.
What do you think of homespun boy names? What would you add to this list?
This post was updated on November 22, 2020 and again on August 14, 2021, and again on July 16, 2022.
Love this list. I feel that many Scandinavian names have that relaxed, “mountain man” feel to them too. Leif, Ansel, Mattias, Soren etc. I would also add Silas and Fyfe.
Another Emily says
I love the name Malcolm! It sound so strong, capable and manly. If only my husband would stop vetoing it every time I bring it up! Oh well, Ezra, Abel, and Franklin are also great too! I’d add Peter, Edward, and Clarence to this list.
I’d add Heath.
Wow I’ve never considered Ogden , Orson or Woody but I love them!
Kate Sousa says
We have a son named Roscoe. People generally seem to like his name and will ask what it means or where we heard it. We have only ever had one person comment about Roscoe P Coltrain and he was in his 60’s. I think that association is fading.
Kate, I’m so glad to hear that! I love Roscoe, and I have a hard time believing anyone would think of that show first …
Love these names! My son is Malcolm and we’re thinking our next will be Granger if he’s a boy. I think Charlie fits well here too.
I have a Malcolm too! Younger brother to a Graham (not far from Granger, which I love!) and named after my great-uncle. But it’s funny because our second choice is also on this list — Woody, to the point where we gave him the middle name Woods so that he could be Woody if we changed our mind after leaving the hospital. Everyone just assumes Woods is someone’s family name, and we also live in the woods, so it’s kind of a fun middle. But anyway he’s totally a Malcolm (also goes by Mac/Mackie at home but we mostly use the full Malcolm.) great list!!! My kids know an Ezra and an Orson.
The Mrs. says
Bruno feels homespun to me. Brown with a friendly ‘o’ ending, he feels like a brother to Orson.
Really interesting list, Abby!
So many good names on this list! I think Jack, Will, Hyram, Cyrus and Wyatt fit the homespun vibe too